The unrelenting legal war between Apple and Epic Games continues to rumble on this month over the emergence of an in-app payment system within Fortnite on iOS.
Apple decided to remove Fortnite from the App Store when Epic Games looked to bypass their 30% fees by creating their own custom payment system within the Fortnite app.
The removal of Fortnite kickstarted legal proceedings between the two tech giants, with Epic Games also launching a #FreeFortnite campaign amongst users of the game.
In the latest twist, Apple has responded to Epic’s demands for Apple to restore Fortnite to the App Store in new legal filings. They claim that Fortnite can make a return to iOS as soon as Epic removes the in-app payment system, adding that the company’s injuries are ‘entirely self-inflicted’.
Apple’s control over the App Store was highlighted in the House Judiciary Antitrust Hearing earlier this year, with critics claiming that the company uses its control in order to bleed excessive revenue of up to 30% from developers.
However, Tim Cook, Apple CEO, refuted these claims, instead arguing that his company faces fierce competition from the likes of Android. He also added that Apple has long since allowed small developers to reach a far wider audience than they would otherwise be able to connect with.
For those who are unaware, Fortnite burst onto the gaming scene three years ago with its unique cartoon battle royale experience, quickly becoming the most popular video game in the world. These days, it has over 350 million registered players, making it a dominant industry force.
After proving to be a hit on PC, Xbox, and PlayStation, Epic Games moved into the world of mobile gaming, introducing Fortnite to iOS and Android via the App Store and Google Play Store respectively.
Fortnite Battle Royale is and always has been free-to-play, with Epic Games instead making money on cosmetics in-app purchases such as ‘skins’ and ‘emotes’.
While Apple does allow such features in its App Store games, they take a 30% cut on all in-app transactions, something that Epic Games wanted to bypass.
In fact, back in July, the Epic Games Founder, Tim Sweeney, claimed that the likes of Apple and Google were being ‘terribly unfair and exploitative’ when taking such a large cut from developers.
On August 13 this year, Epic Games decided to allow their users to receive a discount on purchases if they bypassed Apple and Google by making in-app purchases directly from Epic Games.
Soon after, Apple decided to remove Fortnite from the App Store, a move which was swiftly mimicked by Google and its Play Store.
Apple later threatened to revoke Epic’s access to iOS and macOS development tools, causing Epic Games to seek a restraining order. A California judge later decided that, while Epic had breached Apple policies by introducing their own payment system, the decision to revoke their developer tools would be harmful to the public interest. Epic was granted a partial restraining order and regained access to developer tools.
Despite this, Apple was not compelled to allow Fortnite back onto the App Store, with the phone giant now claiming that the game can return as soon as the in-app payment system is removed.
Epic Games isn’t the only one standing up to Apple’s App Store, as multiple companies, including Spotify, have formed a ‘Coalition for App Fairness’.
Coalition for App Fairness
The coalition targets the App Store with three main issues: anti-competitive policies that favour Apple’s apps over competitors’, the high 15-30-percent fee, and Apple’s ban on competing app stores and payment methods.
The group compares Apple’s 30-percent fee to the 5-percent cut charged from “other payment providers” like credit card companies, and it also says Apple charges “600% more.”
An app store is more than just a payment provider since it handles hosting, SDK and app store development, app screening, and support. But it’s hard to look at Apple’s $15 billion in App Store revenue and claim the company can’t afford to charge less.
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